Category Archives: Literacy
I just have a quick post this evening. We got some VERY good news at my school this week. After MUCH work, and many hours we found out that we will be receiving an Indigo Love of Reading Grant for $84 000 over the next three years. Yahoo!!!!!
That’s $84 000 for books and literacy initiatives. Can you believe it? What this means to my school and our kids, I can not even describe. We are a community in need and Indigo has realized that and come to our rescue, so to speak. So, thank you so much to Indigo and all of the awesome teachers and parents who put hours of time into this application. You all rock!!!
Here’s a snippet of the telephone conversation when we found out that we were chosen. It was supposed to be an interview, to decide if our school could move to the next level. Little did we know, we were about to get some AMAZING news:)
Scroll down – we are Souris Consolidated School: Indigo Love of Reading Grant. The phone died right after we got the news and so we got cut off – but you get the idea!
I’ve mentioned before that I’m lucky enough to be a contributing teacher-blogger to Global Teacher Connect - an awesome teacher-blog with contributors from all over the world! Head on over and check out my latest post on GTC about my plans for getting my students started with blogging this week. Give us a follow while you’re there!
Welcome to Kristy, from 2 Peas and a Dog, my guest blogger for today. Thanks again for such an awesome idea, Kristy. Enjoy folks!
Need a strategy to improve student achievement? Have you tried Bump It Up Boards? They are a great visual way to help your students self monitor their achievement.
How To Get Started:
Choose a curriculum expectation or focus you see as a need in your classroom. I chose the 4 R’s [retell, relate, reflect, review] reading reflections strategy.
Collect many work samples of your focus. You can use previous student work, ask colleagues for their examples, create your own, use government standardized test exemplars or search the internet for examples.
Ensure your samples represent a range of student achievement levels – not just ones that meet or exceed expectations.
Students worked in groups to read the responses and “grade or mark” each response based on their previous knowledge of what makes a good Retell, Relate, Reflect and Review.
A student in each group was the recorder and wrote down all of their ideas on what made the each exemplar a Level 2, (C), Level 3 (B) or a Level 4 (A).
We had a class discussion and compared our answers to ensure consistency among our expectations for Level 2, 3 and 4 work.
Final Process to Create the Board:
Type up student thinking under the appropriate curriculum expectation categories – this will become your Success Criteria.
Type up the assignment expectations and format the graded work samples to fit on to the display board.
Colour code your examples by level and attach to a bulletin board or poster board. Have students reference this board while working on their assignments to self monitor their progress.
Products to Support Bump It Boards
I had an excellent Professional Development Day yesterday, on assessing writing. I’ve got so much work to do this weekend now! Don’t you just love it when that happens? You attend a PD session and by the time you get to the end, you have more questions than answers? Well, that’s the kind of afternoon that I had (in a good way).
We started off the session with reading a chapter from Assessing Writers, an excellent book from our Literacy Library by author Carl Anderson. Everything was made so simple in that first chapter- confer with your students, gather evidence on what individual students need in their writing and plan your writing lessons and mini-lessons accordingly. Sounds easy, right? In theory it is, and I’m planning on giving it a shot!
Toward the end of the session, I was able to score a few minutes alone with the Literacy coach to pick her brain about a few things that I’ve been concerned with in my classroom around our new ELA resources and how I’ve been using them. I feel (and have felt for a while) that I am not as focused in my Language Arts teaching as I would like to be. (My strength is Math – that’s no secret.) Therefore, I feel like I’m constantly trying to figure out the best way to teach reading and writing to my students. And, each year it’s like I start from scratch again, hoping to “figure it out” this year.
Our conversation turned toward another topic of concern for me as well - evaluation and marking. It’s not so much the gathering of information that I have the issue with. I know how my kids are doing and I assess them with rubrics, checklists, observational data, conferencing etc. However, the subjectivity and somewhat grey area that can creep into evaluating a piece of student writing, has given me a feeling of dissonance for a while now.
We operate on a 100 point scale in my province, and I truly feel as though I am working within a flawed system. Even when I use a rubric, mathematically the results don’t always convert to the percent that is most appropriate for the piece of work. On a four point rubric, if a student is meeting expectations across the board, he will receive a 75%. Did he deserve a 75%, though? Was his work a “strong three” and therefore more worthy of an 85%? Or perhaps, he met expectations, but just barely and since a pass is a 60%, he should receive a mark closer to 60%? Realistically, what’s the difference between an 87% and an 88%? I would love to give letter grades a try. Having a range of marks that is suitable for a piece seems so much more appropriate than the system that we’re currently using here.
Anyhow, we chatted for a while and it was so nice to get some of these things off of my chest and to come up with a plan of sorts for how to best work within the system. I’ve been teaching based on the themes and resources that we received 2 years ago when we got a new program. As the Literacy coach reminded me, they are the resources, not the curriculum (although of course they are based on the curriculum outcomes). She suggested that since I seem to be searching for a better way to organize my ELA program, that I do so by writing form, rather than theme. I’m willing to try anything and after talking to her, I’m quite excited to see what this may look like for the remainder of the school year.
The current book club writing focus is poetry, which works out perfectly, since we haven’t covered it much yet this year. This weekend, I’ll be looking at the other forms of writing that still need to be covered before the end of the school year and finding reading selections within our program resources that support/are examples of each writing form. That way, if we are doing Descriptive Report writing, for example, we’ll only be reading examples of descriptive reports so that we can really get a feel for how a report is written and the text features that authors may use such as captions, diagrams, headings etc. Even though this mid-year plan reorganization is going to take time and a lot of effort, I am SO okay with it if it means that I will be more focused in my teaching and my students in their learning. The thing is, I know without even beginning, that it will be! The Literacy coach also gave me some ideas for how to make my rubrics aimed more precisely at what I’ll be covering – so that’s great! Although she’s supposed to be just for the K-6 teachers, she has been wonderful to do her best to support me as well in our K-7 school.
As for my other issue, with the 100 point scale – I know that this is a shift that will have to come from above (or within). I am doubtful that things will ever change within my career – but who knows! Perhaps I’ll spearhead a crusade for letter grades and finally release us from the shackles of this ridiculous system of evaluating students once and for all!
How do you mark where you teach? Percents? Letter grades? What kind of assessment tools do you prefer?
PS: In case you haven’t heard – HUGE SUPER SALE at TeachersPayTeachers THIS SUNDAY – tomorrow! TPT is offering 10% off of all purchases and most sellers will be having sales in their stores as well. Everything in my TPT Store will be on sale at 28% off (the most I can do). If you have any items on your wishlists – it’s time to get them off of there!
I posted yesterday about the issue that I’ve been having with my students just not having the types of discussions that I hoped that they would have (spontaneously, of course) in their book club groups. I told you that I was going to try a few things (I’m still open to more suggestions) and so I just couldn’t wait to let you know what happened in class today.
I started off by talking about their book clubs, if they were enjoying them and so on. I got TONS of insight in this little discussion as to why they were not necessarily “Chatty Cathy” in their book club groups.
One boy said that his book is a good book, but he just doesn’t identify with the female character who’s from another country and has run away from home. Fair enough.
Another student voiced something similar, although he just doesn’t enjoy the book. His character has very different interests than him and he finds it hard to read about someone who is nothing like himself.
One of the girls said that there just wasn’t enough drama in the book for her to enjoy it – nothing was really happening.
Another girl is really enjoying the same book. She said that no one else in her group seems to like the book as much as she does and it’s hard to have a conversation when the other people aren’t into it as much as her.
Another girl said that she was hoping that there would be more to the plot – that the book seems kind of boring and therefore hard to discuss.
Okay, so mystery one – solved. I was under the impression that some of the students were enjoying the books more than they are and that is part of the problem. So how do you get kids to keep up the discussion on a book that they would normally abandon if they’d chosen it on their own? Answers…please?
Today I also showed them a video of a group of students having a book club discussion from the DVD set that we have at the school, mentioned in yesterday’s post. It was a perfect example modelling what their discussions could and should look like. This helped out a lot. They were very honest saying that their discussions look like that sometimes, but definitely not very often. They have been stuck in a turn-taking style of discussion, but they admit they’d like to have more of a conversation style. So…we’re working on it! The first step is identifying the problem – and we’ve got that covered!
I did give my students their ”think marks” as mentioned yesterday and most said that they much rather them over the response that I was getting them to do in their scribbler. I put them on bright paper too, to help “sell” them as a little different. I mentioned the stickies to them and a few thought that they’d like to try them, while others thought that they’d probably lose them.
Next, rather than doing our read aloud first as usual, I had them read their assigned sections, use their “during reading” think marks and then meet with their book club group (rather than having the process span over 2 days). This worked and it didn’t work. MOST students were finished reading their section close to the same time. The few students who are slower to read did not get to join their book club and be a part of the conversation before the end of class. What am I going to do about that? Before, I had set it up so that they were coming in to class, having finished their reading at home and ready to discuss. However, then I had the time-lapse issue, the loss of momentum for discussions and I ran the risk that they didn’t read their sections at all! But now, some students may not get to participate in the book club discussion, unless I hold the others off until everyone is finished. What will they do while they wait? Answers, please? I’d love to hear them!
I did get to meet with two groups and heard some GREAT discussion. Wonderings and predictions, building on each other’s comments and thoughts. It was SO much better! I asked the students at the end, how they thought it went in comparison and they agreed that it was a vast improvement over their last discussion. Yay! I’ll take it!
So now, I want to come up with some kind of simple reflection of each book club session itself, for them to assess the conversations that they’re having as a group and how they could make them better. Tonight’s homework, I suppose…Who am I kidding? The couch and “The Big Bang Theory” are calling my name. I hope it’s a new one! That Sheldon cracks me up!
Thanks for all of the awesome comments yesterday. I so appreciate you taking your precious time to do that. If you have any more comments on book clubs in general – please share!
So we’re about half way through our book club and things are going okay. My class is a group of very verbal kids (and then some not so verbal kids). They seem to be enjoying their novels and I know that they’re engaged in the read aloud text: Firegirl. I have been struggling with one thing, which is getting students to discuss their novels in a meaningful way, without my prompting.
Students are struggling to keep the conversation going for more than 5 or 10 minutes in their book clubs, after their assigned reading. They are finding it difficult to break away from taking turns, …I talk…then you talk…then you… rather than having a conversation.
When I realized that this was going to be a struggle (after the first book club meeting) I modelled a conversation for the class. Basically, after reading the section of our read aloud text, a few student volunteers and I had a conversation in front of the class about what had happened. I tried to model what the dicussion should look like, asking questions, building meaning etc. It was a start – but just not enough! If prompted, they can come up with all sorts of ideas, connections and predictions. However, without my prompting, I am listening to very basic comprehension types of statements without any real excitement!
It’s sad. All this time is being spent on the book club and the real meat of the club – talking about what they’re reading – is falling flat. Now I won’t be too hard on them (or me, I guess). There have been some glimmers during their conversations, I just find that given the students I have – I expected more! I struggle to shut them up ( you know what I mean) on a good day, having to ask them to put their hands down because we’ll just never get to finish the lesson (sometimes their connections are not always on topic and once that train falls off the rails…).
Well, we had a short after school PD session on Guided Reading for K-8 yesterday, and it got me thinking about how I’m doing things in this book club and what they are actually getting out of it.
I talked to our presenter after the session about the conversation dilemma and she actually directed me toward a great resource that our school has: Teaching and Comprehending Fluency: Thinking, Talking and Writing about Reading (with DVD). I read the chapter on book clubs and got a couple of great ideas from it. The DVD that comes with the book has lots of other resources on it as well! The one that I plan to us is the video modelling what a book club discussion is supposed to look like – with real students discussing a real text. I can’t wait to show it to my students and see what they have to say about it, especially in comparison to their own groups. I’m really hoping that it’s going to put some spark into their book club discussions.
I guess maybe I was a little naive, as this is my first book club. I just thought they’d dive in, like on Oprah and divulge their thoughts and wonderings, building elegantly on one another’s ideas. Ugghhh…What was I thinking?
Oh, one other idea that I got from the book was to have students use a “think mark” – basically just a folded piece of paper - to write ideas down as they come across things in their reading. They can mark page numbers down, predictions, opinions, wonderings, words they don’t understand etc. and then take those to book club to use as they discuss. I’m going to try this one tomorrow.
So, help me out! What other strategies can I try, to make the second half of this book club more engaging than the first? I’m completely open to your ideas!
I’ll tell you what I’ve got so far…
-Students are already expected to have a Reader Response ready and topic of discussion for the book club meeting (completed after they read). And, I’m going to try the think mark idea tomorrow.
-Students have “Guidelines for Book Club” to encourage listening and making sure that everyone has a chance to speak.
What I plan to try…
-Showing them the DVD of the book club discussion as a model and talk about what the students are doing well.
I’m ready and listening…share your wisdom…please!
Continuing on with our book club in Language Arts today, we discussed what personality traits make someone admirable. Again, the theme of our book club is “This is who I am” and all of the novels have main characters who display “admirable traits” and strength of character in some way.
-High self esteem
-Make sacrifices for others
-An awesome actor
-Helps me with my basketball playing
-Sets a goal and works toward it
-Patient… and a few others…
We had an excellent discussion on the traits that they came up with, and then worked on trying to narrow our list down to 5 main traits.
Can someone be admirable and also be a horrible singer? Yes, of course – so we took “good singer” off of the board. Can you be admirable without a good sense of humor? Yep! So that ”funny” was gone.
We worked our way through the list and finally decided on a few key characteristics that would make someone admirable:
They are kind, set a goal and work toward it, and make sacrifices for others.
The best part is that the class basically hit the nail on the head! The traits that they decided on are ones that the main characters in the novels display. Score! I love it when that happens – everything coming together the way it’s supposed to. They are already making connections all over the place and we’re only two days in. They’re connecting our read aloud, Firegirl, to the anticipation guide that we did on Friday and to the main character that we read about in our last read aloud, Shot at Dawn: World War I. Love it! Super pumped for when they actually get into their book club groups with their own independent novels which will be Session 5… and we’re entering Session 3 tomorrow.
Wish me luck! We’re on to a shared reading piece tomorrow about Myers-Briggs and personality inventories – should be interesting!
We started our book club yesterday! This is my first one ever (and so I may be asking for advice) but I think the kids are really going to love it! I know what you’re thinking: Why did you launch it on a Friday? That’s another story for another time.
Anyhow, the book club that goes with our grade 7 Language Arts program is themed “This is Who I Am”. It’s all about the type of person you are, how who you are is reflected in choices that you make and how your personality can sometimes be altered by critical and pivotal points in your life. Perfectly suited for grade 7 – it even fits right along with some of our Health outcomes on choices and friendships.
The read aloud for the book club is Firegirl. It’s not filled with a lot of twists and turns, or complicated story lines. It’s a very basic story about friendship and strength character. A girl joins a class mid-year to be closer to the hospital for her treatments, as she was in a horrible accident and has disfiguring burns. The way the students in the class act toward her is very telling of their character.
I think that it was a great choice for the read aloud for a few reasons, but its simplicity is one of them. I think a lot of my students will see themselves or their classmates in the main characters in the novel. And, at the very least, they must consider what they would do if placed into the same situation. What kind of friend would they be? Would they be brave enough to befriend someone who everyone else avoids? It should be interesting and I’ll keep you posted on how it’s going.
What do you think is the most challenging part of running book clubs? What should I be aware of?
Okay – switching gears…
I also have some pretty exciting news for you…An awesome giveaway by Teacher’s Notebook begins today, Jan. 5th and runs until Jan 31st. It’s simple to enter and the winner will receive their choice of an iPad Mini, a Kindle Fire HD or a Nook HD. How amazing would that be? You can enter each day between now and the end of the month – so be sure to take a couple of minutes to get yourself entered! If I win, I want the iPad Mini!